Hiragana Alphabet

The Japanese language has three types of characters: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Kanji is the set of Chinese characters, and Katakana is mainly used for foreign words. Hiragana is a Japanese syllabary that is a phonetic lettering system created around 800 AD. “Hiragana” means “ordinary” or “simple.” It is a kana system, and the kana are referred to as syllabic symbols instead of alphabetic letters.

Except for a couple of exceptions, each Japanese syllable is represented by one character. The modern hiragana syllabary consists of 46 base characters: five singular vowels, 40 consonant-vowel unions, one singular consonant. All Hiragana character ends with one of the vowels, with the exception of “n.” The only consonant in the Hiragana syllabary that does not resemble its English counterpart is the Japanese “r.” This is because the Japanese “r” is rolled, sounding like a combination of “d,” “r,” and “l.”

Unlike other Asian languages, such as Chinese, there are no “tones” in Japanese. Japanese is written top-to-bottom, left-to-right.

Japanese Alphabet
English Sound
Pronunciation
aas in acute
ias in ink
ooas in tool
eas in elephant
oas in Omega
haas in Hanukkah
hias in history
fuas in Fuji
heas in help
hoas in home
kkaas in Hanukkah
kias in kiss
koas in cook
keas in kept
koas in Korea
maas in machine
mias in ministry
muas in moon
meas in melody
moas in Monaco
saas in sauna
shias in ship
suas in Sumatra
seas in Senegal
soas in Somalia
yaas in yard
yuas in you
yoas in yoga
taas in taught
chias in chin
tsuas in tsunami
teas in telephone
toas in Toshiba
raas in Sahara
rias in ring
ruas in ruby
reas in rest
roas in Romania
naas in knot
nias in knit
nuas in nuke
neas in nest
noas in Norway
waas in Washington
wias in Wii (no longer used)
nas in ton
weas in west (no longer used)
woas in wolf